CHICAGO - Chicago has several breweries, some focusing on lagers, bitters and hoppy IPAs, but the Moody Tongue in the Pilsen neighborhood is taking a different approach, concentrating more on lower alcohol beers that pair best with food. The brewery also has a well-appointed, mid-century modern tasting room, tucked away behind a drab, industrial facade.
"What we practice here is culinary brewing. It's just taking a chef's mindset to highlight flavors and aromatics within beer," said brewmaster and co-owner Jared Rouben. "The whole foundation of the philosophy is source the best ingredient, handle it with care, and then knowing when, where and why to incorporate it back into the liquid."
Rouben is a classically-trained chef - a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and veteran of such restaurants as Per Se in New York City.
"My goal as a brewer is to create beer that you can have more than one of so it doesn't irritate your palate. And it happens to pair exceptionally well with food because we think about food when we create it," said Rouben.
With names like "peeled grapefruit pilsner" and "smoked applewood gold," the approach is three-fold.
"Starts with a culinary technique as the first word, the second word is the flavor and aromatic you experience and the third word is the beer style. So if you know food, you'll two out of the three words; if you know beer, you'll know one," he said.
Only two options for food here in the tasting room: freshly-shucked, briny oysters - an excellent match with the lighter styles of beer - or an impressive 12-layer German chocolate cake, that's intended to go with imperial stouts or baltic porters that have been aged in bourbon barrels for up to a year.
"Each layer of the cake pairs exceptionally well with our beers," he said.
The tasting room here is open Thursdays and Fridays at 5 p.m., weekends at noon, and then again Monday at 5 p.m. You can find Moody Tongue beers all over Chicago of course but the only place you can find this shaved black truffle pilsner is here - you gotta come here to try it - and again, if you're going to eat something, you can have a little oyster, or you could have some of the cake. I'm going to have the beer and the cake.
EXTRA COURSE: The growler program at Moody Tongue allows you to take a larger bottle home, and then return later for discounted refills.
Extra Course: Moody Tongue
2136 S Peoria St., Chicago